posted on August 26, 2012 in patents, life

On Patents, Apple, Samsung And Innovation

I love reading all those posts that the patent system is evil (I agree to some point on this one), that Samsung should have won and that Apple did not invent anything. Let me just talk about one thing. But there is one little thing so many smart people either do not understand or always get wrong.

They should not be able to get a patent for $foo, it is so trivial

So you think $foo is so trivial that everyone could come up with it and that it does not deserve a patent. Let me ask you one question. Why? Did you think of it?

If it would be so easy someone else would have done it before Apple. But no one did. They either did not figure out how to do it or how to ship a product that uses it. No matter which one it is, Apple (in most cases) were doing it first.

After someone had an idea and showed how it is supposed to work it is easy to say: "everyone could do this". But the art is doing it before someone shows you how to do it.

Everyone Is A Patent Lawyer

This is the feeling I have reading some rants. Everyone knows what is worth a patent and which patents should be granted and which should be revoked. The problem is that most people only look at this from a technical point of view. This is only half the truth.

Could everyone think of "swipe to unlock"? Yes. Of course. But Apple shipped the first products. And if I see someone swiping at the bottom of a device I think of an iPhone or iPad. I do not think "smartphone" or "tablet". I think of Apple. So I think of an Samsung smartphone if someone is making wild gestures on the screen.

They were the first company shipping a product gaining a significant market share. How people see devices is a one of the reasons we see lawsuits about the look and feel and user experience. Not because they just have a patent. People who do not care about the technical details see characteristics of devices. This is, what we call selling points. You know, the stuff that makes money because people use it as an indicator if they like a device. And if you are the first to come up with a solution how to do something people easily remember and like you want your fair share if others use it.

So arguing that the idea is trivial does not mean it is not worth a patent. Neither you nor I know how much work is behind "trivial". Saying you could have come up with it is easy. They showed you how it is working.

Patents Done Wrong - Banning Products

Now do not get me wrong. I believe someone who invented something should get a fair compensation if other companies make money with it. And if everyone would stick to this easy thing there would not be money and time be wasted that could have been invested in development and innovation.

Now if a company buys a patent they normally pay a lot money. Saying "give us $10 if you use it" is in my opinion valid. They paid for the patent to use it. They own it. Instantly trying to ban products is just idiotic. Banning a product is always the wrong move.

Yes, you have competitors. Of course it would be great if they vanish. But did you think of the people who just do not want your product but the other one. They will not just magically buy an iPhone if they wanted and Android or the other way around. You just piss them off. Look at the judge who banned both Apple and Samsung products in South Korea. Now they can buy Nokia. Yay for them,…

Easy solution: Play fair. If you are not able to invent something and copy it from someone else just pay them. You still make profit. Likely more than you would have made if you would have had developed your own, creepy, half assed solution.

I Just Want Innovation

Apple, most of the time, has a patent, gives companies a fair chance to buy the rights to use it. Samsung is copying Apple as hard as they can. Even retail stores,… I remember that they even put up (Apple) AppStore icons on a wall. Google is buying what they can buy and start lawsuits (Motorola, anyone?).

Is this the whole truth? Is Apple always the good guy? Maybe not. They are still a company. And I do not believe you get all informations reading some reports to make a final decision if it is correct what is happening or not.

In the end I really do not care. Just pay the other company if they invented it and put all your money and time in your products. This is what makes customers happy. Everything else is just for the trolls.

I would love to talk to you about this post, your ideas or awesome projects.

I am @fallenhitokiri on Twitter and GitHub or you can send me a mail.